Writing stuff

Writing workshop at Westercon 67

At Westercon last weekend (I will be posting a Con Report at some point this weekend), I participated in the con’s writing workshop. The two critiquers there had nothing much to say about my story, “Tumbleweeds”, except that they really liked it, they laughed all the way through it, and there are only a couple of places that need tightening up. They also recommended that I submit the story to the Writers of the Future contest. I was pretty pleased with all that, of course, but at the same time I suppose I was hoping for more.

I feel like I’ve moved past the point where these one-day workshops and critiques at various cons would be useful to me. I still have room to improve, definitely, but I also know that I’m a pretty good writer.

Code Monkey

Speaking of writing: As per a meme on Facebook, here’s a list of five tidbits regarding Code Monkey, my current work in progress:

    1. Much of it is inspired by the music of Jonathan Coulton;
    2. It features a giant squid named after our cat Sherman;
    3. It also features sasquatches named after our cats Ingrid and Rupert;
    4. It’s always Christmastime on Chiron Beta Prime! and
    5. It is also (very) loosely inspired by the 16th century Chinese novel Monkey: A Journey to the West. Because I can, that’s why.

Last night at our writers’ group I received several pretty thorough critiques of the first 40,000 words of Code Monkey. Plenty of good feedback, and I’m looking forward to applying what I learned to the rest of the novel.

Other writing projects, and some goals

It’s July, time for Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve never participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s much like November’s NaNoWriMo, except without the parties and heavily populated write-ins. You also get to set your own goal, instead of the 50,000 words that you’re committed to writing in November. This month, I am determined to write the first 20,000 words of my new project, And the Devil Will Drag You Under (content forthcoming on this site). This novel is based on the short story I wrote a few months ago for my Story of the Week project.

And speaking of Story of the Week, I fully intend to resurrect that project in August. Right after Camp NaNoWriMo. I promise. No, really this time.

I have other novels I want to write as well. PadmaThe Outer DarknessThe Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster. And so on. And after I finish the first 20,000 words of And the Devil Will Drag You Under, I will get back to Code Monkey, and while that one is making the rounds I’ll start work on one of the others.

And, finally, I still plan on self-publishing “The Winds of Patwin County: A Tragedy in Four Gusts” soon, though it will probably happen in August or September, and not July as I’d previously hoped. It needs cover art, and it needs at least one more round of edits before I release it on an unsuspecting public.

And that’s it for now. Do you have writing goals? If so, what are they?

A Four Question Blog-Hopping Meme Thing About Writing

rockhopper-penguin
This friendly rock-hopper penguin welcomes you!

(Tagged by my friend Andrea Stewart. Andrea is a member of my face-to-face writers’ group, WordForge. She’s wicked talented and a really neat person to boot. Check out her website and her fiction.) 

So many books to read! So much television to watch! So much social media to catch up on, constantly! So much work to do at work! It’s actually kind of amazing that I get any writing done at all, isn’t it? And yet somehow I manage to get some words written on a more or less regular basis.

1. What are you currently working on?

Currently, a couple of things. First, of course, is my novel Code Monkey, which is a refinement of the novel I wrote for National Novel Writing Month in November 2009. I thought it was fun and I honestly believe it has potential. My goal is to complete the current draft within the next week so that I can submit it to my crit group this month.

I’m also working on a couple of short stories: “Flash Drive” and “The X of Doom”. And, of course, I plan to publish “The Winds of Patwin County” in July under the Igneous Books label. More details on that as they become available.

 2. How does your work differ than others in its genre?

That’s a tricky question because I’m not actually entirely sure what genre Code Monkey belongs in. I call it a “love story with occasional monsters” but that by no means implies that I’m writing a romance. I’ve asked around, and the people who’ve read early drafts seem to agree that it’s contemporary fantasy, but I’m not sure what defines that genre. So, I’m not sure how to answer this question, except to say that I hope I’m doing enough differently to make it entertaining and to avoid the tropes and cliches common to the genre it belongs in.

The same is true of the short stories I’m working on.

3. Why do you do what you do?

I’m not 100% sure, but I think it has something to do with just enjoying the process. I’ve written stories ever since I was very young (my mom still has “Tornado in the Sky”, a book I wrote when I was, I believe, 6). Whenever anyone suggests a game of Dungeons and Dragons, I want to be the Dungeon Master. I’m not always satisfied being the audience. I just like to create the worlds and the characters and the stories that they’re involved in.

4. How does your writing process work?

Too often, it simply doesn’t. While I almost always have a document open in Scrivener or LibreOffice on my computer, I’m too frequently distracted by something else: a novel I’m reading in one browser tab, or Facebook or Twitter in another. I know the best thing for me to do would be to shut down my Internet connection when I write, or simply switch to a workstation that has no Internet connection at all, but I find it’s simply too easy to restore the connection and start browsing again.

But I’ve set myself some goals. Daily writing. A certain word count or time spent editing per day. And so on. I’m hoping you readers will help hold me accountable.


And here I go, tagging some people.

First, Dex Fernandez. Dex is a talented writer and a good friend. We go back several years.

Second, Jessica, whom I know through NaNoWriMo, and who’s pretty spiffy, in my opinion.

Third, Jamie Thornton, another member of my writers’ group. She is the author of Rhinoceros Summer, a fantastic coming-of-age novel that spans two continents.

And, finally, Leigh Dragoon, a great writer, member of my writers’ group, and a good friend.

Story of the week: yet another update

Okay. Between jury duty (for a rather intense trial) and extra hours of work to make sure our website doesn’t explode this month, I’m finding I just don’t have time to write this month. So my Story of the Month project will resume in February instead of this month.

Sorry about that.

Infested!

Remember this scene from our kitchen from last night?

A Dalek in the kitchen!
A Dalek in the kitchen!

Well, we thought that a single Dalek in the kitchen, easily dispatched by my sonic screwdriver, would be the end of it.

We were wrong.

When we woke up this morning, we heard a familiar sound from the kitchen: a soft, almost plaintive “Exterminate!” We came into the kitchen, bleary-eyed and barely awake, and saw this:

Dalek hanging from dishtowel
Dalek hanging from dishtowel

It was cute, in a sort of ready-to-destroy-the-universe way, and it was easy to take care of. We simply grabbed it, and smashed it to smithereens on the floor and gave the pieces to Sherman to play with.

But then we went to make coffee:

CAFFEINATE! CAFFEINATE!
CAFFEINATE! CAFFEINATE!

And then we realized the entire kitchen had been taken over! The Dalek from the night before had merely been a scout or it had left spores or something behind! The Daleks were everywhere! Daleks in the silverware drawer:

Silverware
Silverware

Daleks in the microwave oven!

Microwave!
Microwave!

Daleks among the potatoes! (Warning: DO NOT LET YOUR POTATOES GROW EYESTALKS!)

Spuds!
Spuds!

Daleks in the Kitchen-Aid!

Eggs-stir-mix-bake!
Eggs-stir-mix-bake!

Daleks in the refrigerator!

Refrigerator!
Refrigerator!

Even Daleks in the dishwasher!

Dishwasher!
Dishwasher!

It’s an invasion! Help! Someone call the Doctor!

Birthday Thoughts ‘n’ Things on the Seventh Day of Christmas

A Dalek in the kitchen!
A Dalek in the kitchen!

First things first: There’s a First Friday write-in at my house this Friday at 7:00 pm this Friday, January 3, 2014. Hope to see you there! If you want to come, send me an email or something and I’ll tell you how to get here.

Anyway, today’s my birthday, and I turn 46 years old. I’m quite all right with that. I freaked out a little bit about turning 40, as is traditional, and I suspect I will do so a bit when I turn 50, because I think you’re supposed to. But 46? Meh.

It’s also New Year’s Eve. The picture above shows what Jennifer and I have done so far. We inflated the Dalek that my parents had given me for Christmas, and then it invaded the kitchen. Fortunately I had my sonic screwdriver ready, and successfully fought it off. Go us! Now it’s up to the cats to deflate it with their claws. I’m sure that won’t be difficult for them.

Typically, I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions. I used to make them when I was younger but I usually didn’t keep them for very long. Then, in a bout of rebelliousness, I decided that instead of New Year’s resolutions, I would make March 25 resolutions — the thought being that March 25 was just as arbitrary as January 1 for that sort of thing.

Nowadays I use my birthday and the end of the year to consider the areas of my life that I like to focus on, and consider where I’m at in those areas of focus. Those areas of focus are, summarized:

Health. Physically, I’m not very good at this, but with the mindful eating I’ve been practicing I’ve been getting better. Emotionally and mentally, though, I’m pretty happy with where I am, though there’s definitely room for improvement.

Relationships. I’m still working on some basics, like returning phone calls in a timely manner. For some reason, I suck at that. But I have good relationships with my wife, my family and with my friends, both online and off-, and I’m looking for ways to make those relationships better and stronger.

Geekery. By which I basically mean learning and fun. Learning IS fun, of course, but in the “fun” column I also put gaming, reading, entertainment, and so on. It’s all geekery because I’m a geek. This coming year, I do intend to do some more learning. A lot more.

Writing. Always. This year I plan to focus on it a bit more. Maybe start submitting short stories again.

And that’s all. As I said, I don’t really make resolutions. Instead, I just like to refocus on what’s important to me.

‘Tis nearly the end of Holidailies

Test post

Posting from my phone. Also cross-posting everywhere. Ignore this post. Carry on.

Christmas Thoughts ‘n’ Things

NOTE: Even though most of this post was written on December 26, it’s now the 27th as I finish and post it. Happy third day of Christmas!

Ingrid in a Santa hat
Ingrid in a Santa hat

It’s December 26th in this particular time zone as of this writing, which means it’s Boxing Day, or the second day of Christmas. Tradition demands that I give Jennifer a pair of turtle doves, whatever those are, but I’m going to pass. I guess I’m just a lousy husband. Anyway, here’s a picture of one of our cats, Ingrid, wearing a Santa hat. It’s okay. She always looks this grumpy.

Aside from all the driving, the past two days have been pretty low-key. On Tuesday, Christmas Eve, Jennifer and I went down to my parents’ house to hang out with the family. We all sat around and chatted, had Chinese food for dinner and various cookies and things for dessert, then opened stocking stuffers and presents. I had drawn my sister Leona’s name in the gift draw (my parents draw names to see who we’ll be giving a gift to, instead of giving everyone a gift; I really like this tradition, because it means I can put a lot more thought into a single gift instead of trying to find something for a bunch of different people), and I gave her a nice black sweater which she’d been wanting. Her husband Mike (who wasn’t able to come to the festivities) had drawn my name, and I ended up with a copies of Wonderbook, an illustrated book on writing speculative fiction by Jeff Vandermeer that I’d really been wanting, and Existence by David Brin. My parents also gave me a three foot tall inflatable Dalek. They’re Doctor Who nerds just like me, so they know what I like. 

Yesterday, Christmas Day, we went to Jennifer’s sister’s house to spend time with her family. It, too, was a pretty low-key affair. After breakfast we opened presents, and again I ended up with some pretty cool stuff: a book on ghosts and hauntings, a DVD of The Universe from the History Channel, and a subscription to Scientific American, which makes me happy in light of my plan to writing The Neverending Symphony in 2020. It was fun hanging out with various in-laws, nephews, and nieces, and the caroling in the evening was fun as well, but by the time the day ended, Jennifer and I were both wiped, and quite ready to go home.

And now I’m back at work while Jennifer’s off shopping with her family (on the 26th, they hit the post-Christmas sales to stock up on cards, ornaments, and supplies for the next year). It’s been a slow day, customer support-wise, so I was able to spend the day focusing on some projects that I’ve been working on.  There’s hardly anyone else in the office, too, which has been nice. Not that I don’t like my co-workers, of course, it’s just that it’s nice to be able to focus on existing projects rather than on customer support emergencies.

So at this point there’s not much left to do except sit around and wait for my birthday. Once that’s over, then it’ll feel a little less like limbo around here, and a little more back to reality.

‘Tis the season for (rambling) Holidailies